Jimmy Reid – Rest in Peace

Been browsing the tributes to Jimmy Reid and link to some of them below
Tam Dalyell in the Independent. Here’s Reid comparing Scargill and Thatcher:
“….Reid made the interesting parallel between Scargill and Mrs Thatcher. “Those two deserve one another,” he told me. “She has closed her mind to the possibility of being wrong; Scargill never admitted to having any doubts at all. He has that frightening certitude, like Mrs Thatcher. Although they are both apparently poles apart, politically, philosophically and ideologically, they are both dogmatists. The difference is that she has the whole state machine at her disposal.”
In a devastating critique that confirmed the total political break with his former comrade, published some weeks before the end of the miners’ strike, Reid wrote: “I reject the notion that Scargill is leading some crusade against Thatcherite Toryism. Beneath the rhetoric Scargillism and Thatcherism are political allies. I would put it this way: the political spectrum is not linear but circular. In my experience the extreme left always ends up rubbing shoulders with the extreme right. They are philosophically blood brothers.”
Alex Salmond pays tribute here:
“…His transition in politics from the Communist Party to the Labour Party to the Scottish National Party retained an essential core of consistency, and reflected the potential for unity between the labour and national movements in Scottish political life. Just as Jimmy believed in the rights and dignity of individual human beings, he believed in Scotland’s rights and dignity as a nation. That, I believe, is a legacy of fundamental importance, which ensures the continuing relevance of Jimmy’s thinking and philosophy as Scotland moves forward.”
The funeral was in Bute but at the Glasgow service Alex Ferguson and Billy Connelly paid tribute:
Ferguson -“Sir Alex Ferguson said his memories of Mr Reid were as a young boy with books under his arm while the Manchester United manager played football.
He told the service: “Our education was football, his education was the Govan library. He was never out of there.”
Connelly – “He put things beautifully simply, complex things that just knocked me back three steps.”
The best validictory would be his own words. From the famous inaugural speech as rector of Glasgow University in 1972.
“A rat race is for rats. We’re not rats. We’re human beings. Reject the insidious pressures in society that would blunt your critical faculties to all that is happening around you, that would caution silence in the face of injustice lest you jeopardise your chances of promotion and self-advancement.”
The text (which was printed in full in the New York Times) is worth reading in full here

  • fitzjameshorse1745

    Thanks for posting this. Id brought Jimmy Reid up in two threads but the Sluggerites ave unil now not honoured him with more than a passing mention which says something for the age profile and political profile of the readership. (that Hart and Judt were deemed more worthy)
    He was of course right. The political spectrum IS circular. And produces unlikely allies……dissident republicans and TUV racists for example.

  • Rory Carr

    A welcome post, Dewi. It is worth mentioning that the New York Times considered Reid’s address as “the best speech since the Getysburg Address” – high praise indeed.

    It was Reid’s act of breaking ranks and openly criticising Scargill during the miners’ strike which finally estranged him from the left leadership. It was not the bones of the criticism however that rankled but the public airing of them at a time when unity was all – I was at the Morning Star almost daily at that time and there the miners’ leaders would often congregate but what Mick McGahey and others had to say in private about Scargill’s disastrous leadership would never be repeated in public – “Hold the line!” was as ever the war cry.

    But there is no doubt that Jimmy Reid will go down as one of the great voices for Scottish socialism along with John McLean, James Connolly and Willie Gallagher.

  • Dewi
  • Prionsa Eoghann

    The ‘work in’ pioneered by Jimmy and his colleagues of course was a massive ideological victory for the workers, and was much copied especially in Liverpool in the decade after Govan.

    It is no accident that a man of this stature eventually turned to the SNP. Paradoxically a party that has been most successful harvesting *what may be viewed as* natural tory votes despite being to the left of labour for many a year.

    Talking of paradox, It has always bugged me just how someone like George Galloway can champion the cause of small nations everywhere but insists that his own remain chained as a milch cow, a needed yet unwanted appendage to a decaying greater England. Gorgeous gallus Goerge has finally let the cat out of the bag. In his Daily *Record/Ranger/Labour party news* (delete as appropriate) column, he tells the story of working to get Reid elected in Dundee for the labour party in the 70’s, and how despite his best efforts they were defeated by the SNP. His visceral hatred of the SNP and Scottish independence he then goes onto admit stems from these times. So it seems that his tribal differences would have him commit 5 million of his fellow countrymen to the status of living in an industrial wasteland who’s economy and natural wealth are playthings for the demands of the south east of England.

    However I am sure he is genuine in all of his other stated convictions…………..Aye right!

  • Harry Flashman

    It is certainly good that Reid abandoned Communism and belatedly saw that Communism and Fascism are merely two sides of the same coin but I can’t get away from the fact that he was still a Communist in the 1970’s.

    Now, I do appreciate that an extremely soft focus has always been liberally applied over the nature of the extreme left in the mainstream media and in academia but it is worth bearing in mind that being a Communist in the 1970’s was a pretty awful political stance to hold.

    This was a time when the horrors of Stalinism were fully known and well documented, when half of Europe was under the boot of several particularly brutal Communist regimes and only a few short years after the dreadful repression of democrats in Czechoslovakia, Poland and Hungary by Communists. Furthermore China had just witnessed the sheer unbridled terror of the Cultural Revolution and Cambodia was shortly to fall to the insane Communists of Pol Pot.

    Yet Reid, a man who actively sought to overthrow the democratic institutions of the UK and replace them with a totalitarian one party state where individuals would be deprived of their liberty and consciences in favour of absolute obedience to a politburo (this is after all what being a Communist means), is now portrayed as some sort of warm hearted, decent humanitarian.

    Look, it’s good that he abandoned Communism but if Oswald Mosley had continued as an active fascist well into the 1960’s before mellowing into a sort of one nation Tory in old age I somehow doubt he’d be getting the misty eyed treatment that Jimmy Reid has been getting of late.

  • Oracle


    You remembered what they said about Scargills leadership but not that everything Scargill warned would happen did happen.
    Not surprising weak people always listen to negative tittle tattle looking for any and every reason to opt out of anything they never really had the stomach for in the first place.
    The same type of weak spineless persons created the UDM (union of democratic mineworkers) they let the tory press use them as a tool to smash the mining communities and Thatchers people used them to smash the NUM.

    Scargill warned them what would happen that they would only survive until the NUM was destroyed and then the Tories would close all the UDM pits also….. Scargill was 100% correct that’s exactly what happened.

  • JJ malloy

    Harry Reid-Spot on…

    I’ve always been somewhat amused at the double standards one fines when reading or hearing about the evils of a totalitarianism regime or ideology when one is “extreme left” and the other is “extreme right”. Sending millions to death camps is still sending millions to death camps, regardless if the slogans employed by the state sound more appealing to those upper middle class socialists so prevalant in academia.

    I recall Orwell describing how his fellow leftists ostracisized him when he realized the evil that was Stalinist Russia. Many of them would not believe anything negative about the communist paradise that was the Eastern bloc.

  • Alan Maskey

    When Mackay’s mother, God rest her sweet soul, died aged 99, Mackay, I believe, put her name and age (99) on the tombstone and then added: Murdered by the forces of capitalism.

    Arthur Scargil is stil plodding away in a minnow socialist group. Not a bad guy but he totally misread the situation. As for scabs, well, they are just scvabs, are they not?

  • JJ malloy

    “When Mackay’s mother, God rest her sweet soul, died aged 99, Mackay, I believe, put her name and age (99) on the tombstone and then added: Murdered by the forces of capitalism.”

    That gave me a good laugh

  • DerTer

    Spot on JJ. May I paraphrase?: “Many PIRA republicans would not believe anything negative about the UI paradise that Sinn Fein was/is promising; many DUP unionists would not believe anything negative about the ‘big man’s’ promise to restore their NI paradise.”
    Whatever about that, I remember feeling quite elated when Reid took on Scargill – who was one of the great disasters to befall the trade union movement. Always a pleasure to listen to, may Jimmy Reid – Scottish, egalitarian, erudite, warm, interesting, supreme iconoclast, with a wonderful way with words – rest in peace.

  • greenflag

    ‘ is now portrayed as some sort of warm hearted, decent humanitarian.’

    That’s what he was and iirc he did save some 8,500 needed jobs on Clydeside .

    It’s also sign of the times that are in it . We can all agree on the one party tyranny of the old Soviet Union but somehow when the Soviet Union was around our Western capitalists seemed to behave themselves a lot better barring a few exceptions -which is also why Scargill found himself dropping off the edge of then public opinion ..

    We don’t know how long the present economic crisis is going to continue in the west particularly in the USA and UK and other major countries but the longer it continues and the longer the powers that be seem both unable and unwilling to do the necessary then the more people will look for the security of ‘authoritarianism ‘ of the right or left . Many may even begin to think that state communism is more reformable at least in respect of the great majority of people than market capitalism which seems now set on pushing western man into a two class society of the very rich few and a mass of low paid near slaves .

    As for Mosley some wit made the comment that he would be Prime Minister one day but they could’nt be sure which party he would lead ;)?

  • Rory Carr

    Harry Flashman would be wrong to think that Jimmy Reid ever abandoned the Marxism that rings so clearly through his Glasgow University address with his recognition of the debilitating effects of capitalism upon human development and the necessity to create a society that was not based upon greed and material advance alone,

    “To measure social progress purely by material advance is not enough. Our aim must be the enrichment of the whole quality of life. It requires a social and cultural, or if you wish, a spiritual transformation of our country.”

    His remarks noting the symbiotic relationship between the far-left with the far-right were meant to illustrate how the tactics of such as Scargill and assorted Trotskyites and anarchists on the far-left wind up playing into the hands of capitalism. Witness Scargill’s two monumental errors in (a) calling the strike when coal stocks were at their highest when the tactic had always been to allow them to deplete to their lowest level before taking strike action and (b) refusing to call for support for the strike in a national ballot. If the first mistake was one of stupidity the second was sheer lunacy itself since in a national ballot there is no doubt whatsoever that a strike would have benn overwhelmingly endorsed. Indeed such madness led many to consifer whether or not Scargill was perhaps a willing tool of the government and the NCB rather than simply the incompetent, meglamaniac that we have all come to know and loathe.

  • Rory Carr

    Apo;ogies for typos above. In a rush to get out.